The Ice Garden: a beautiful story of freedom and belonging
“Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she tells stories. One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she’s longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossibility: a magical garden wrought of ice. But Jess isn’t alone in this fragile, in-between place…”
The Ice Garden tells the story of Jess who is allergic to the sun. She has no friends, everyone thinks she’s a bit weird as she has to protect herself from the sun – covering herself fully, wearing protective hats, staying indoors during the day. The only people she gets to talk to are the doctors at the hospital, her mum and her neighbours. Night time is her only solace, away from the burning sunshine.
Her story starts to unravel one night when she decides to go for a walk, unbeknownst to her mum, and she discovers a magical, wonder-filled Ice Garden. In this ice garden she can’t be harmed, there’s no sunlight, she’s safe (or at least she thinks she is). Whilst she’s in this new, harmless land she meets a young boy. She finally has a friend, someone to talk to, someone to play with in her newly discovered land, but as their friendship develops, things start to go awry. Jess is given a priceless gift, and must make a choice: one which could have disastrous consequences.
I really enjoyed this story. Jess’ story was a really intriguing one. She is a girl constantly battling with belonging and solitude. She has this exceptionally tough choice to make. She needs to choose something for the good of others, or for herself. She’s a brave young girl, constantly looking out for others – she doesn’t want others to have to suffer the way she does. There’s a thread throughout the book of Jess, who writes stories to entertain herself through her loneliness, reading her stories to another young man who is poorly in the hospital. This ends up being an important part and I loved that. It showed Jess the power her stories have and the solace they provide for her, and others.
I can’t wait to take this to school as I think the children will love this as much as I did. The writing is brilliant, there’s some gorgeous descriptions and plenty of things to think about throughout. Would you leave your house in the night time? Would you make the same decision Jess did? Are you the kind of person who would risk everything to better yourself?
Thank you so much to the publishers, Chicken House, for sending me a copy! I’ll be passing it onto my kids!
Would you like to visit an ice garden?
How would you feel if you met a boy made of ice?
How would you cope if you had Jess’ condition?
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